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Jameson and I spent the night in Duluth, so that he could rest up and fight off the flu. The train would take a long time to reach Cincinnati, so we were in no hurry.

On Monday morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast, then went to a shipping store so I could mail off my spare trombone slide to a buyer in New York. I hope he'll enjoy it! After that we hit the road, reaching our second hotel in Knoxville TN around dinnertime. We decided to eat at a nearby Outback Steakhouse, and although the food tasted good both of us felt bad after eating, so we spent the rest of the night lying flat on our backs in the hotel room.

On Tuesday we began driving to Cincinnati, and got there in time for dinner again. We found a good pizza place for some oven-fired margherita. After our meal we saw that the train was still not in the yard (we are always late to arrive in Cinci due to the high volume of rail traffic). We decided to see a movie and if the train wasn't spotted or close to it by the time we got out (10pm) we'd get another hotel. We chose M. Night Shyamalan's "Split". It was really creepy, and at the end there was, of course, a twist! We really enjoyed the movie. By the time it was over the train still wasn't in the yard, so we decided to cave and get a hotel. It turned out to be the right choice as the train ended up officially spotting sometime after midnight.

On Wednesday there was another round of severance negotiations in the morning, so Jameson took us back to the train and waited while I sat in on that phone conference. We are making progress, and I'm excited for the day when we'll be finished negotiating. After the meeting we went to get some groceries. As we returned to the train and began unpacking, I was surprised by a visit from Brian Miser, a former Human Cannon with Ringling and a current Human Cannon in his own right. Mr. Miser is thinking of purchasing one of the Ringling train cars for a project he's putting together. Cool! I invited him into my room to look around and take some measurements. He also took a look at Jameson's room, since it's a different size and shape. While I'm sad that the train is being sold off, it does make me happy that a circus person is considering purchasing this piece of circus history...I'd like it if this car, which I consider to be "my home", ends up in good hands rather than a scrap yard. I was too shy to take a photo while Brian was in my room, but snapped a quick pic as he went outside to inspect the undercarriage and such.



The weather was sunny and windy, and since we're here for two weeks I decided to take my flytraps outside and keep them there until the weather turns. I'll be pretty ticked if anyone runs them over.


They have begun growing again since I took them out of the fridge, so maybe they'll be all right!


Later in the day Jameson finally got his offer of employment letter from LA Film School. It's official, he's leaving us. I'm very happy for him, but of course it's hard not to be sad, too. Neither of us wanted to leave this job yet. Neither of us wanted to have to think about living and working apart. But what we want never does have much to do with the big picture, does it?

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I got to spend Monday with my Aunt, who lives near Raleigh. We had lunch at Calavera Empanadas, a really awesome little place right in downtown Raleigh. The empanadas were AMAZING. I have never had dough so light and fluffy! And the fillings were awesome too. I got the Al Pastor (pork and pineapple) and it was really delicious. They also had dessert empanadas...one had bananas and nutella, the other was pumpkin pie. So stinkin' good!


After our meal we went back to my aunt's place where we just hung out and enjoyed each other's company. I helped her to grade some papers (she's a teacher) and we talked about my sisters and brother, and our plans for the future. For my birthday, my aunt and uncle gave me a huge bag of treats from Trader Joe's! Turkish honey, fruit leather, sprouted wheat bread, Belgian chocolate, and much more. They also gave me some very nice "dressy" shirts (which I will hopefully have occasion to wear now that I won't be living in a train yard!). I am spoiled. Thank you aunt C and uncle A :)

For dinner we went to a local Chinese place. After that, I had to start making my way to Atlanta. It was a six hour drive and the train had left early, so I wanted to get there as soon as possible. I drove partway through the night and finished the drive the next morning, arriving around noon (thanks to traffic).

This might have been Jameson's last train run. He's had his car on the road for quite a while, so hasn't taken many runs (when you bring a car it's your responsibility to drive it to each city). Since I'd borrowed his car this week, he used the time to enjoy the train one last time. I hope it will be a good memory for him.

I spent that evening unpacking and rehearsing for an audition video that I'd need to do on the fly.

Wednesday was opening day. Nothing extra-special happened, we had a surprisingly short rehearsal and a decent show.

Thursday we only had one evening show. I used the day to complete my audition video; because there were other events going on at the arena, it really did take me the entire day to get all of my things done. By the time it was time for the show I was exhausted. It felt good to sleep that night.

Friday we had a split. After the first show it took almost an hour to get back to the train thanks to Atlanta traffic. Putting that on the list of things I won't miss when this job is over. I used the few hours of my day to do laundry and apply for jobs, then we went back to the arena for the evening show. At some point in there the arena personnel presented us with a cake, but I think it was part of a PR event because we weren't actually offered any :P

Saturday and Sunday were three show days to make what we call a "six pack" weekend. I was exhausted before the weekend started, and it didn't get any better as the shows went on. I overhear a lot of folks asking each other, "What will you do after this?" and "Have you found anything yet?" I hear a lot of rumors about how things are going among the various troupes and departments, and see a lot of discouraged-looking people. I think it's starting to really set in that come May, we had better have our lives together. I think this weekend is especially hard since we have so many shows. Normally this would be exhausting, but at least we'd enjoy our work and appreciate the audiences. But with unemployment looming for a lot of people, I get the impression that it's extra-hard to get through a heavy weekend like this.

So...I'm sorry for the lack of pictures this week. It was just very busy, and there wasn't a lot of time for fun.

Monday, two shows for President's Day. I'm posting this blog before we finish because not sure how late I'll be out tonight. Some band folks are planning to go to Smoke Ring for some tasty, tasty smoked meats. I especially like their roasted brussels sprouts! Then we'll go listen to a friend of ours play at a local bar. Should be a nice way to end the week.

For the next two weeks we will be playing Duluth, and the schedule will be much lighter. I hope I'll have better things to share with you.


Other stuff:

This week we got some horrible news. One of our beloved aerialists, Nadia, passed away unexpectedly. She leaves behind an incredible husband and father and a beautiful baby boy. Her death is a painful blow to anyone who had the privelege of knowing her. Thank you for being such a wonderful person, Nadia. A light has gone out in the world now that you are gone.

Britney (former elephant crew, floor crew) took this video from the perspective of the Ringmaster float. Pretty awesome!



Happy Birthday to Jonathan (animal specialist)! Looks like the clowns got him good!

(photo courtesy Jon M.)
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First thing on Monday morning, Jameson had a follow-up interview with a company looking to hire music teachers. It was a Skype interview taking place in our hotel room, so I got to be there and listen to almost the whole thing. It went really well. I think he will soon have a job for after the circus.

To celebrate, we went to Tupelo Honey Cafe in downtown Greenville (Jameson said it was still to celebrate my birthday, but I think otherwise!). I had this really awesome sweet potato pancake with a piece of fried chicken and pecans. Yum! Jameson had the fried chicken alone with creamy gravy, and a side of roasted brussels sprouts that were REALLY good! I didn't take pictures...was not in the mood.

While I am genuinely happy and excited for Jameson, I am also reminded that I still do not have anything lined up. It's not for lack of trying, but that doesn't keep me from feeling a desperate sort of urgency on a daily basis. What can I do today? Where should I apply today? What haven't I done, that I should be doing? Many people here are asking these questions and feeling this sort of pressure. The one thing that I really need to figure out is where I can start practicing my large bore trombone while on tour. Arenas provide a great deal of space, but not a great deal of privacy or soundproofing.

While all of these thoughts were bouncing around in my head, I got to see Jameson finally RELAX a little bit! He's been so tense and worried, just like me. But he is a good person, a hard worker, and a very determined and positive person. Things will work out all right, and I think his hard work is paying off, and he's finally getting closer to some job/life security, just a month after we all got canned. It's a wonderful thing.

We visited a 2nd & Charles just for fun. I found the next installment of the Saga series and bought it, excited to read it. We then drove to Greensboro to meet the train. It was a little late, so we killed time with dinner and a trip to the grocery store. We found out that on this particular trip, the Blue and Red trains had passed each other! Many people took videos and photos of this event, which was rare to begin with and now will never happen again.



I heard that some people in their excitement tried to high five each other as the trains passed. "It hurt but it was worth it," haha. Every vestibule was full of people trying to capture the moment. These photos were taken by Richard Stringer (very impressive as the Blue train was moving at high speed!) Looks like a cool moment :)





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Jameson and I spent Monday in Orlando. We were both feeling crummy, so didn't do a lot, just errands and resting. I slept for most of the day. Didn't realize how exhausted I was.

On Tuesday we had one last wonderful breakfast at Keke's. Then we packed our things and said farewell to Florida. I wonder if I'll be coming back, or not.

We drove all day and arrived in Greenville around 9:30pm. The train made good time and was spotted when we arrived. Railfan Joe Dougherty was on hand for our arrival, and took lots of great pictures of Nikki and other members of train crew unloading the flatcars. The Greenville yard is one of few accessible, paved yards, and one where the flats are stored with the coaches (passenger cars).





Some of the cars are hand-painted.


On Wednesday morning Jameson had a job interview, which went very well. Afterward we went to Publix to stock up on groceries for the week. I bought several prepared meals, because it's going to be a busy week and I don't expect to have time to cook. Then it was back to the train. I spend most of the day applying for more jobs and resting, as I hadn't slept well.

We have a pretty weird schedule here in Greenville. There were 10am shows scheduled for both Thursday and Friday, so we all had to be up early and there was no time for a rehearsal. Plus our bandmaster Brett had to fly home for a family emergency, so we had a sub on trumpet and Tim will be conducting for the entire week.

I like Greenville, a lot. I've probably mentioned this before...it has a special place in my heart, being one of the first cities that I ever visited on tour as a trombonist. It is a beautiful city with a thriving economy, but it's HOW it got to be beautiful and successful that I find really wonderful. The town found itself struggling during the 70s, with WWII-era industries failing and commerce moving to the suburbs where shopping plazas and malls were being built. Both the private citizens and the city government officials decided that they would not sit by and watch their city decline. They formed an ambitious plan involving both private and public sectors, and began a total redesign of the entire town. From the structure of the buildings to the landscaping to the businesses and economic foundations, they laid the groundwork for their hopes, and worked hard to achieve it. And the result is a beautiful city growing at an incredible rate.

Every time I come here, I am amazed at the leaps and bounds being made. This time, the area near our train has gone from being a row of empty shop fronts to an active market area, with local grocers, art studios, bike shops, and more coming soon. On the drive to the arena, a once-empty stretch of land now houses a massive housing boom...new apartments under construction as far as the eye can see.

Anyway! Opening day was a little rough, because of the early start and Brett's absence and a union meeting scheduled for the afternoon. But it was made better by a visit from our sister unit, the Blue show, currently performing Out of this World in Charlotte NC. They were seated in the section closest to the band, which was really nice because we had a loud rowdy bunch cheering us on!



After the show they immediately came down onto the floor and started socializing and checking out all of our stuff. People were climbing all over the portal, playing with props, taking photos, laughing, talking. It was a lot of fun. I got to see some members of the Blue unit band, including Landon, the union steward on that show (we'd never met!). A large group photo was organized...I had already left by the time it was taken so I'm not in it, but I'm glad so many people stuck around for it. It'll be a nice memory for us to look back on, that day when Red and Blue circus families got together :)

(photo courtesy Steve B.)

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During the break we returned to Jameson's apartment. The next day, Jameson had a meeting with someone working with Disney's entertainment management sector. I think we both hoped that it would turn out to be some type of job offer for him, or at least consideration for future work. Why else would they schedule an in-person meeting?

Turns out, he drove out there for nothing. They had him arrive at their offices in person just to tell him that nothing was available, and that he wouldn't be considered for management until he'd worked at entry level for a while (he's already worked for Disney for seven years). It was a huge disappointment. I felt terrible for him. I'm sure you can imagine how crushing it is to have a company that you care about and spent seven years of your life with reject you so coldly. We spent the rest of the day working on video edits and trying not to get seriously depressed.



We had planned to get to the train that night...it was only an hour or so from Jacksonville to Tampa. But for some reason the train was delayed, like SERIOUSLY delayed, and didn't get moving until nighttime.

The next morning we headed back to the train, stopping at Brocato's for one of their amazing sandwiches. The rest of the band was there enjoying the food and fine weather, but we decided to just get ours to go as we were both feeling down and not very social. I was piggy and got both an 8" Cuban and a "devil crab". The Cuban was delicious, salty and savory goodness! And the sandwich was huge so I got to have it for both lunch and dinner!



The devil crab I saved for the next day's lunch. It's a potato-sized croquette filled with lump crab, veggies, hot sauce, and seasonings. It was REALLY good, I'd definitely get one again! The next time I'm in Tampa. Whenever that is.



The opening day rehearsal went well. There was notably nothing to report from Feld HQ, other than that they will keep us updated on any news. We were also warned that shows may be added to our existing schedule, so I guess it might be hard to make plans on show days from now on. It was mentioned that any parents who will need to enroll their kids in a public school will have help from Feld in doing so.

After rehearsal Jameson and I found a local taco joint for dinner. We ate and talked about all our worries, and what we should do and could do, who to contact, when to take this or that next step. Nothing's easy right now, but I'm glad we have each other.

The show that evening was packed, and went very well.


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Before starting this post, I'd just like to say thank you. Over the past week I have been bombarded with wonderful, absolutely wonderful messages of encouragement and commiseration and support and strength. Your kind, hearfelt, understanding voices have drowned out the messages of hate that I've also received (and there were many.) I did not know that so many people still enjoyed the circus. After all of the efforts put out by the animal rights agenda, and as our audience diminished over the past year, I had begun to think that the circus was really and truly hated. But this week has taught me that the opposite is true. The vast majority of you still love the circus. You love the animals, you love the people, you love the tradition, and the magic, that is circus. I will never forget it.

It is not lost on us that at any given show, there are hundreds of people who are seeing a Ringling Bros. spectacle for the last time. And all of us will do our best to perform at the highest level for you, before we go.  Thank you so much for all of your love and support.

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Let's see if I can remember anything about this week, haha.

I remember that we had a single show on Monday, after which Jameson and I both plastered ourselves to the computer to look for work, for hours, into the next morning. Tuesday was very much the same. For Jameson, he is the type who needs to jump right in and start searching to maintain a high level of motivation. For me, I need time to be upset so that I can move on. While Jameson was reaching out to his contacts and making some seriously impressive progress, I was blogging, and writing, and answering questions on Quora. I was responding to the many many people who wrote to me on my blog and facebook and email. Hundreds and hundreds of messages poured in. I don't think I've ever typed so much. I remember looking up from the screen with a blazing headache and realizing that it was approaching 1am, and perhaps I should give it a rest.

At some point in there I went to a back room to be alone and cry my eyes out. Like I said, for me the best path is to feel the feels, and then move on.

That night we packed up and drove to the train (it had spotted early). I spent the day splicing trombone highlights from my 2013-2014 Built to Amaze performances, and loading them on SoundCloud. After that, several more hours answering questions on Quora and responding to all of the hateful and kind messages that I'd received that day. Looking around my room, I had to try really hard to keep it together. I'm going to have to pack everything up, and leave this tiny room, which I consider to be my home. I'm one of the last people to stay on this historic, beautiful train. By the way, what will even happen to the train? Ugh.



I spent Wednesday updating resumes, updating my LinkedIn, responding to messages, reaching out to various connections, etc etc. This is literally all that I did for the entire day, with breaks to eat. Right before bed I finally caved and watched some anime, just to get some of the tension off of me.

Thursday was opening day. Let me tell you, there was a notable difference in everyone's attitude. Usually on opening day people are relatively cheerful, talking and joking as we enter the building, roughhousing during rehearsal, etc. Today was definitely different. We filed slowly and silently into the arena. We set up as usual. Occasionally I heard a snarky comment or a laugh with no joy in it. It made me feel bad...the next few months will be very difficult to get through if we can't cheer ourselves up.


(photo courtesy Julio F./Richard S.)

At the pre-rehearsal meeting, it was announced that we would no longer be able to get discounted tickets for our friends and family. We were also offered career counselling from a third party, who would be backstage for the weekend. We had a pretty normal rehearsal. Probably due to a little depression, the show was difficult to play; it felt like I was playing underwater or something. Not fun. Jameson lent me his Q2N camera because I'm trying to get footage for auditions. But I do not like playing in front of cameras, so I was a bit nervous, plus the levels weren't right. It was a good test run though.

Friday was incredibly busy. I had an interview with a magazine for a possible upcoming article (not sure if it will be published, stay tuned), and then later in the afternoon we had a phone conference involving all eighteen members from both Red and Blue unit bands and our union representatives. This was in preparation for severance negotiations with Feld.

That night I recorded footage of myself playing the show again, but it turned out to be one of those weird "off" shows where lots of unusual stuff happened and many things went wrong. The Wheel act was longer than usual, we lost the our timing during Mountain Gag, some wonky stuff happened during Bungee, the BMX act was cancelled due to a wet floor...nothing serious, just enough odd stuff that several parts of my recording were unuseable. But I'm kinda glad I got it on tape! For the memories :)



And you know, I think perhaps what happened during that show was just everyone trying to shake off the very heavy shadow of the dying circus bearing down on us. We're all still here, we all still love what we do. We all want to give our best, to the very last minute.

Saturday was a confirmation that some of our good vibes were returning. I saw people smiling during the show. I saw performers actually reacting positively when the crowd cheered. Brett (bandmaster) cracked some jokes with us. It felt almost normal.

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UPDATE: A new tag has been added called "animals". Clicking on this tag will take you to all entries that have photos, information, or facts about the circus animals. Thanks for reading!

Since the train would not be arriving in Huntsville until Monday night, we decided to stay in Nashville for an evening.

On Monday afternoon we hit Whiskey Kitchen for lunch. This is our third time visiting...it's pretty clear that it's our favorite Nashville restaurant! We always get the fried calamari because it's amazing. Someday if I can tear myself away from that tender squid and flavorful seasoning, I'll try the other appetizers! For the meal Jameson tried the fish and chips and said it was delicious. I had the fried green tomato BLT with brie, bacon, spinach, and hot dijon mustard on sourdough. It was delicious!!



We also had drinks because why not. It's 5:00 somewhere, right? I had a "moonshine mule" and Jameson had something called the "farewell Broadway" that had apple brandy, vanilla syrup, bitters, and cream.


After our great meal we bid farewell to Nashville and hit the road. The drive to Huntsville was only a few hours long. We were concerned as the train hadn't left on time and was running several hours behind. We decided to hit a mall and do some Christmas shopping. Jameson got most of his done while I just shopped for ideas. To kill more time we went to see a movie (Office Christmas Party). After that we went for a late sushi dinner and decided to get another hotel. The train was supposed to be in Chattanooga by 1:30pm and it was now 8pm. Sometimes it happens. There have been times when the train was right in front of us and we still ended up in a hotel! Circus life.

The next morning we were surprised to find that the train was still not in the yard, so got a late checkout and went to find food. We then killed time at Walmart until Tim (sax) and Jerome (bass) let us know the train was finally spotted. We got to the yard just as power was hooked up. There are fond memories of this yard and this city. We had one of the best elephant walks I've ever been on here last year. I'm very sad that we can't bring that level of excitement to Huntsville any more. But I'm happy to have experienced such a wonderful moment here.

I spent the rest of the day unpacking, repacking for the trip home, Christmas shopping online, and paying bills.

We opened on Wednesday. Rehearsal went extra-long again as we integrate new people and elements into the show. And although she's been here for a month, it's now official, we are joined by our new Ringmaster, Kristen Michelle Wilson! She is the first female Ringmaster Ringling has ever(?) had, but besides that she's a great vocalist and has a wonderful personality. We're looking forward to working with her! CLICK HERE to see an awesome video of Kristen performing.



The show that evening went well, although this arena is quite cold so the space heaters came out again.

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On Monday Jameson and I were a little surprised (and embarrassed) to discover that the train was actually arriving in Nashville that evening. Whoops! It's not a huge deal, but we could have been on the train Tuesday morning. Oh well! We used Monday to clean up, pack, and enjoy one last day of relaxing. I've recently gotten some emulators, and tried my hand at some old Sega Genesis games. I ended up beating the Aladdin game. Yay nostalgia!


On Tuesday we began our 10-hour drive to reach the train. Travel was pretty smooth, except for Atlanta...traffic is always hideous in Atlanta it seems. We stopped there for dinner and waited for the traffic to die down, then continued on our way. We arrived at the train around 10pm (it felt later because of the time change). Home sweet train! I unpacked, did a load of laundry, and went to bed.

On Wednesday the circus was loading in to the Bridgestone Arena. Jameson and I got groceries, then I spent the day getting things in order and preparing for work again.

Thursday was opening day! We had our usual meeting and a long rehearsal. There are lots of new performers and crew coming in, so we have to make sure everyone knows their part.



For dinner a bunch of us went to Jack's Bar-b-que down the street. It's counter service, you go up to the counter and order your meal and sides and they assemble it on the plate for you right there. I got a brisket sandwich, cucumber salad, and baked apples. Yum!


The show went well, though attendance was pretty poor. We were happy to see Melissa (Blue Unit musician) among the crowd, and got to say hello and chat for a bit after the show. She'd brought a friend who's currently performing in The Grinch. Both of them seemed to have a good time.

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On Monday Jameson and I began the drive to Chicago. We had already driven two hours the night before, so expected only a few more hours of driving. But partway through the drive we saw something ominous in the distance: a small dark cloud hovering on the horizon.

At first, we speculated that it was from a factory or someone's private burn pile. But the closer we got, the darker the smoke looked, and it soon became apparent that something was wrong. Jameson pointed out that he hadn't seen any cars traveling in the opposite direction for some time.



We rounded a corner and came upon a horrible scene. Something was burning on the highway median. Thick black smoke and fireballs curled into the sky. All we could do was sit and wait as emergency vehicles arrived.


Eventually it became clear that the fire was not going out any time soon. We were redirected back the way we came, where we found an alternative route. As we turned around I snapped a picture, hoping to see what had happened, but all I saw was a damaged truck and an indistinguishable black mass of metal.


It turns out that there had been a three-trailer accident. One of the trailers was a tanker, and it had burst into flame. The driver was killed. Not knowing this yet, we spent the rest of our drive quietly worrying for those involved, and selfishly grateful that we ourselves were OK.

We arrived in Chicago without incident, and enjoyed a nice evening with Jameson's parents.

The next day we got up a little early for a nice breakfast at Little Goat. We were lucky...owner Stephanie Izard was there to taste-test some proposed specials. Very cool to see the boss herself doing some hands-on sampling and giving instruction to her crew! This time I decided to try the "bullseye" french toast: home-baked chive brioche with soft-friend egg hidden in the middle, topped with crispy chicken, strawberry slices, and bbq maple syrup. As always, Little Goat hits the spot!



After breakfast it was time to hit the grocery. Mrs. Boyce needed lots of ingredients for Thanksgiving! She'd also preordered a turkey from Local Foods, a grocery specializing in local sustainable farming and foods. I saw lots of things in there that I'd like to eat! Back at the condo we relaxed, watched some Cubs recaps that Jameson had missed (we don't have tv on the train), and enjoyed an awesome curry lentil soup made by Mrs. Boyce. After dinner I was able to premiere a project that Landon (Blue Unit drummer) and I had been working on: social media sites for the Ringling bands! We now have a page on facebook and a twitter account. These are just to share the awesomeness that is the Ringling circus band...and yes, let's be honest, to remind people that there IS a Ringling circus band! Live music + circus = magic :)
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Monday was Jameson's birthday!!
Unfortunately we found ourselves in Youngstown!!

But still, we were able to have some fun! We found a very nice restaurant close to our hotel. Jameson enjoyed a savory steak topped with his favorite, blue cheese (eew!). While we were eating, music from our preshow began playing in the background. I was dismayed...Jameson danced!



After our meal we went bowling. I am horrible at bowling but enjoy it all the same. We played five frames. Jameson beat me every time!


There was an arcade in the alley as well, we played a few games and won enough tickets for some disguises. It was a fun night!

(photo courtesy Jameson)

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We drove to Auburn Hills. On the way we went through Detroit. Both of us were prepared for graffiti, damaged roadways, burnt out cars and condemned houses, because this is what we'd seen two years ago when driving through. Instead we were pleasantly surprised...things aren't perfect, but there is obvious change. Keep it up Detroit, it ain't over until the fat lady sings.

To kill time after reaching Auburn Hills we walked around a mall. Jameson found a new backpack for the laptop he'll be getting soon. And I unexpectedly found a new laptop when we visited the Microsoft store! I have this weird history of owning Dell Inspiron laptops. At this point I've had four of them, each of which has lasted a minimum of five years (and even then they're still fully functional, just outdated). My poor Inspiron N5110 had its battery fried last year, and ever since I upgraded it to Windows 10 it's been a little laggy, having not been designed for that OS. Long story short, it's six years old and the time has come to replace it. The new one is an Inspiron 15, a combo of software/hardware sold exclusively by Microsoft (one great thing about this is no bloatware). Got it at a great price and so far I'm enjoying it!

Tuesday was a dark day. Didn't really do much...Jameson went to a movie while I stayed at home to set up the new computer and do chores. That night everyone was watching democracy at work. I think I went to bed around 2am when it became clear Trump would win.

Wednesday also a dark day, I borrowed Jameson's car to return the nice backpack I'd bought last week in Pittsburgh, turns out it was too small for the new laptop. Go figure!

Thursday was opening day. Not much was said about the election results...this is the circus, probably 2/3rds of the employees here can't vote. I just looked around, looked at my coworkers of all different colors and religions and nationalities, and at the circus kids who can't even speak the same language playing together without a care, and I did take a moment to appreciate the unbounded diversity here. What matters here is not where you're from, or what color you are. It matters that you do your work well, and stay true to yourself, and take pride in both your work and yourself. To be honest I wish everyone could experience this. I'm not sure what it will mean to have Mr. Trump as president...all I can say is, I hope the fears circulating across the web right now are unfounded.

Anyway, opening day came and went. We had a long rehearsal to work in some new changes for next year. Our new ringmaster sang part of the rehearsal with us, she sounded great! Can't wait to hear her in the show :)

Friday we had the first split we've had in a while. I was super tired so went to the train for a nap during the break. While waiting for the bus to leave the arena I happened to catch the camels headed inside for a midday rehearsal (just an FYI, if they weren't rehearsing they'd need to be exercised anyway, this is not extra camel labor :P)



Both shows were good. We got to play the National Anthem for Veteran's Day.

Saturday, three shows. I brought a lot of things to the arena to sell, mostly clothing and books, just trying to clear up some space in my room. End-of-tour cleanup, so to speak. Others had the same idea, Victor (tiger crew) was able to sell quite a few things and Lindsey (clown) sold some her artworks. It feels like the end of the tour, like we should be having our final show countdown, like we should be preparing for Winter Quarters. Just looking at the Palace of Auburn Hills brings back memories of "see you down the road" hugs and dressing room toasts. But this year is different. We will continue into the new year with the same show. It's strange. But things change, and hopefully this is a positive change.


(photo courtesy Detroit Free Press)

Sunday was a two show day. I wish I had exciting, fun things to share with you this week, but it was just a slow week. The arena is isolated next to a highway, and we had a full week of shows, and there just wasn't much happening. Next week is going to be downright weird: we have a solid THREE dark days in a row, followed by a SIX PACK in Youngstown OH, followed by a two week break for Thanksgiving. My goodness!


Other stuff:

Medusa the snake getting some hang time on an aerial orb.


(photo courtesy Jon M.)

Horse and camel trainer Robert Štipka working with Colonel during preshow.


Checking out the slomo setting during the cannon shot (one of few times I'm not playing).
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Before heading to Pittsburgh we visited a really awesome museum: The Strong Museum of Play! It's only a few blocks from the Rochester arena! Never knew!

The Strong Museum is primarly a children's museum, featuring a lot of play areas, a small library, and lots of hands-on exhibits. We were there on Halloween day and there was a special trick-or-treat event for toddlers. We saw lots of cute kids in adorable costumes!

But the real reason we were there is because the Strong Museum houses thousands of video games. The entire second floor is like a giant arcade. Some games are free, others require tokens, either way it's a great time. Most of the games are not on display, but are held in the archives and rotated out into the display cases every once in a while. When you've got tens of thousands of items it's hard to show them all at once! Here are some of the vintage gaming systems we got to see.

Game Boy, of course!



An Apple II computer, complete with floppy disk drives. (Yeah that link is for you Millenials who never experienced the "joys" of a piece of wax paper that held 0.5k data and could be erased with a fridge magnet :P)


This is pretty cool, it's a Nintendo cartridge specifically designed for gaming competitions. The parameters of the games can be controlled by the chip in the upper left. Supposedly these are quite rare and go on eBay for thousands. Cool!


This is one of those ET games that was ditched in a landfill after losing tons of money for Atari (it was a news story a few years ago when they dug 'em back up).


This is just a small sampling of what we saw. In addition to video games, there were displays of board games, puzzles, dolls, and other types of toys.


We found a giant Battleship board and played a game. I won!


That's ok, he won at two player Tetris later on :)
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Jameson met me in Albany, and we got a hotel near the airport. I was exhausted! The train wasn't due to arrive in Rochester until Tuesday afternoon, so we killed time on Monday at a mall, and on the drive of course, and on another hotel.

On Tuesday we hit the grocery and went back to the train. I spent the day unpacking, cleaning, doing laundry...all the chores. We also went to the gym.

Wednesday was a dark day. Spent time at the gym, and later on Jameson and I went to look for pumpkins to carve! This close to Halloween there weren't many options, but we found three that fit the bill! The little white one is a "backup" in case one of us messes up our carving!



While Jameson was watching the Cubs game, I prepped the pumpkins! No guts no glory!


All done and ready for carving!


And of course I kept the seeds for roasting in my compact NuWave oven!



Thursday was opening day. It felt good to be back! I was surprised when many folks stopped me in the hall to say "welcome back" or "we missed you". Thanks everyone, I feel loved!!

One of our favorite things about the Rochester arena is that there's a Dinosaur BBQ right next door! After rehearsal we all headed over there for some fantastic barbecue. I had the classic brisket sandwich, cucumber tomato salad, and cornbread! Yum.


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On this overland, we took it easy. Jameson has a pretty wicked cold so no gym, no exploring. We just waited for the train and enjoyed a movie at a local theater (Miss Peregrine's Home for Extraordinary Children), then got a hotel when by 9pm the train was not in the yard.

The next morning we left early to get back to the train because I had a union meeting...our first negotiations of 2016. As union steward for the band, I was invited to be present for negotations. I ended up participating via Skype. It was very interesting, and our first of many I'm sure. Hopefully the talks will go well!

The meeting took a few hours, and afterward I was busy packing and cleaning my room, making sure everything was in order before I fly to California for Kayle's wedding. So excited!! But I lost track of time and sort of missed lunch. The train is parked behind a large shopping plaza with several food options, but there are two live tracks and a fence between us and all the goodies. In the past, we've always snuck through a hole in the fence (probably made by circus people of days past), but the railroad doesn't like that. This time we were told a path would be made for us, but it was late and dark and I snuck through the hole because it was the only way I knew. Shh, don't tell :P

The next day I got to wake up nice and late and relax. I did a final load of laundry, then set out to print some documents. Roselli (bus driver) kindly gave me a lift to the shopping plaza, but to my disappointment the Staples that had been there in years past was permanently closed. So instead I found lunch and took it back to the train, using the new path. It's a gate behind a Wendy's, marked with greenish spray paint and tons of little red flags. I guess this makes it easier for the train engineers to know where people will be crossing, and keep an eye out. How nice!



A few hours later I made sure everything was packed, and locked the door to my room. My sub was on his way (huge thanks to Doug Elliott for covering for me while I was gone!) Jameson drove me to a train station nearby, where I caught an Amtrak to Newark International, then a shuttle to a hotel. I called my sister Raven and talked for a bit, then my friend Lauren whom I haven't spoken to since Christmas. Then sleep.

The next day was full of travel. A six hour flight to San Francisco, during which I watched Finding Dory and part of Kung Fu Panda 3. My second flight was delayed so I didn't get in to Santa Barbara until late. Beautiful sunset though!


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We arrived in Salem on Monday morning, unprepared for the Columbus Day crowds that would greet us. Wow! There were so many people! We went to Red Line Cafe for lunch. Having been there last time, we knew it would be good food! The line was out the door, and the restaurant actually had bathroom bouncers to keep non-customers from using the toilets! First time I've ever had to get a hand stamp in order to pee! Haha! In any case the crepes were amazing. I got a Nutella crepe with strawberries and bananas.


After our meal we simply wandered. There was a lot more going on than the last time we'd been through. Street performers, tons of people in costumes, ghost tours, and some sort of sidewalk sale/faire with stalls selling homemade goods. Some of the goods we like most were candles laser-cut to look like crystals and skulls, mounted "trophy heads" of narwhals, elephants and dinosaurs handmade by a local artist, and awesome t-shirt designs and art by a local church raising funds for its LGBT outreach.

In our wanderings, we stumbled upon an Escape Room Salem challenge! These things are popping up everywhere lately! The owner was running the place himself that day...he hadn't planned to be open, but I think the Columbus Day crowds might have prompted him to do some business! He was able to fit us in around 3:30 with another group of four, which turned out to be two parents and two young ladies. It was a three-generation superteam!!!

This was the first escape challenge I've done with multiple rooms, and I have to say it was pretty fun! The rooms were decorated in awesome fashion, like a lab with lots of lit-up dials and mysterious equipment. The goal was to prevent a zombie apocalypse. We were given a walkie-talkie so that the owner could provide clues when we got hung up (which we did right off the bat haha). In my opinion what made this challenge more difficult than others we've done was the fact that we had to find clues in a certain order. This meant that we often ended up with all six of us surrounding one clue, all of us trying to be involved in solving it at once. It took some serious self-control to step back and allow others to manipulate a puzzle. Everyone wants to have a hand in the victory! But we took turns and helped each other, and ended up escaping with an impressive eleven minutes to spare! WOW!



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We drove a long ways this overland...probably about 10-11 hours to get to Albany. The fastest way was by cutting through a section of Canada, so we brought our passports. Canada's pretty nice-looking! And with a Tim Horton's at every exit too! We had a pleasant safe drive and crossed into and out of Canada without issue.


We drove straight through; others stopped to enjoy Niagara Falls!

(photo courtesy Anna D.)

The train actually beat us to Albany, which was a pleasant surprise. We were able to get groceries and get on the train Tuesday night. On Wednesday I borrowed Jameson's car to pick up supplies for my venus flytrap's winter dormancy...because getting run over didn't quite kill them, so I will try my best to give them a shot at a better life next year. To stay dormant the plants need to be kept cold, and there's no way I can keep them cold if I have to bring them into a heated train car every time we move. So I'm going to have to try refrigerator dormancy. I got a bottle of antifungal, and a brick of sphagnum moss. I also picked up some groceries I'd forgotten the day before. Exciting stuff.

Thursday was opening day. We found out that the train will be in a different yard in Boston, much farther outside the city. What a bummer! We really had it good in the MIT yard, with shops and restaurants within walking distance. Oh well. Word has it we'll at least be close to some public transit! Thursday's show went well, but crowds were pretty poor and our Human Cannon was out due to a wrenched shoulder.

Friday, one show. I spent the day working on things for our upcoming contract negotiations and doing general writing. The evening show went well, though again, underattended compared to the past several cities.

Saturday, three shows. I felt a little down. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was just that smaller audiences are kind of discouraging. But still, shows went well. We had visits from some awesome former circus musicians, and that really brightened the band's day :)

On Sunday we only had one show. I am choosing to end this post before our show because I don't feel like bringing my computer overland (if anything exciting happens between Sunday afternoon and midnight you'll find out in the next post :P). This was just kind of a 'meh' week. But it's good, because it helped to get me back into the swing of work. I enjoyed playing the Williams trombone all week, and am getting more used to it. I love to see my circus friends every day :) Next week we are in Boston. Boston in the fall! It's usually a wonderful visit, I'm looking forward to it!


Other stuff:

Rebecca (head of wardrobe) loves to decorate our car for Halloween! This year's decorations are AWESOME. We have the coolest car. Thanks Rebecca! CLICK HERE for a tour!

While in Albany, Chaz (drummer) made some friends at Akira Albany, a Japanese restaurant. The whole staff came out to see our show! And they invited us to a special Hibachi meal just for us! I didn't go, but about twenty circus folks did, and they were treated to an amazing lunch (CLICK HERE to watch the Hibachi go down). Thank you so much to everyone at Akira Albany for your generosity and hospitality! We'll be back!!!


(photo courtesy Chaz)

The animal setup this week. I've no idea where the tigers were though. Hiding!

(photo courtesy Robert S.)

Congrats to the Blue Unit on performing a milestone 100 shows!!! You rock!!!

(photo courtesy Landon B.)
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Our last two days in Chitown went quickly. On Monday after our workout we went to Glenn's Diner. This place is known for its seafood, and also for having a seasonal selection of cereal, of all things! Pretty neat place. Mrs. Boyce and I both got this amazing seafood salad, full of lobster and smoked trout and shrimp. I couldn't even finish mine and had to ask the boys to help polish it off!

From there we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's a small one but very good! They have several big cats, primates, reptiles, farm animals, and more. Plus the weather was fantastic, sunny but with a chill in the air, fall is definitely here!




Jameson and I feeding some cows :)


That evening after a wonderful dinner made by Mrs. Boyce, Mr. Boyce invited me along to his choir rehearsal! He sings with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, an amazing group that's been performing since 1872!! They were rehearsing for a concert and also a wedding, at a local community arts building. I picked out a seat in the back and settled in to listen. To my surprise, the first song they rehearsed was Eric Whitacre's "Alleluia"! This piece is very familiar to me, I played it in college wind ensemble with my graduating class, but that arrangement is known as "October". But it's the same piece, and a very nostalgic and wonderful memory for me. I was very happy to hear it again.


The rehearsal went for about three hours with some breaks in-between. I got to hear a reduced section of the chorus (including Mr. Boyce) rehearsing for the wedding...I took footage of this but as the wedding was that week, decided against posting it. They sounded great :) I love sitting in on rehearsals and seeing the process of refining music. It's a lot of work for everyone involved, but the results are absolutely worth it!

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Jameson and I went our separate ways on Sunday. I drove a few hours to reach St. Louis for the night, while he flew to Florida to get to his house.

The next morning I did my workout solo in the hotel's gym, which was surprisingly nice!



After that I had a nice breakfast, though it was kinda strange to be eating at a restaurant alone. Not something I normally do. But I was seated near the hostess stand, so a few of the wait staff came by to chat and made it less lonely :) Plus breakfast was delicious! Avocado toast and eggs!


After the meal I went to a local music store that had great reviews, but unfortunately it was not for band/orchestra instruments. So I hopped back in the car and kept driving until I reached Kansas City. There I did a little shopping, ran some errands, and chilled at the hotel.

The next day was spent in much the same way. I checked out and had to find things to kill time while waiting for the train to arrive. I spent the afternoon at Panera working on computer stuff. As I was packing up I realized that I couldn't find the keys to Jameson's car. Oh no!! After checking everywhere, I ran outside and up to the car...and there were the keys right on the driver's seat. Ugh. So I bought another coffee, called AAA, and sat down to wait. It didn't take long for someone to come help me out, but I certainly felt like an idiot. It happens to everyone...right?

By that time the train was in the yard and close to being spotted, so I stopped at Cosentino's for some groceries and dinner. Got to the train, unpacked, and relaxed.


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On the way to Lexington we stopped in Nashville. It seems like every time we play Nashville, it's February and two degrees outside and raining. I've been through the city several times, but have never been down the main drag. This time I finally got to see Nashville!


Oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before exploring the strip, we had a wonderful dinner at Whiskey Kitchen! We'd been here earlier this year and the food was AMAZING. Today it was just as good! We started off with calamari. This isn't freezer squid, it's squid steaks cut into thick slices, hand-battered, and fried alongside spicy pickles. Tender and delicious. Best fried calamari ever.


Jameson got seared tuna (I should have taken a pic because it was beautiful) while I went the unhealthy route and got hot chicken and chipotle mac n cheese! The chicken was tender and hot enough to make me sweat. The mac n cheese killed the flames nicely. Thanks again Whiskey Kitchen for the above-and-beyond eats!



THEN we went to the strip, to walk our dinner off. One of our first stops was a record store that had been full of all kinds of vintage vinyl the last time Jameson had been there. Unfortunately now it's been cleaned out, and mostly houses country CDs and vinyl box sets. What a shame. As we continued down the street we noticed that although there weren't a lot of people out, there was a LOT of live music, so much that in the street it just sounded like a wash of sound. Pretty much every bar had a live band. In some ways that's awesome, and in other ways it might show how competitive it is to be a musician in Nashville.

Before going to our hotel, Jameson drove me down the REAL "music row", where all of the recording studio offices are. We saw the offices of RCA, Warner, BMG, and many others. But many of the buildings were for lease or sale, and new condos were springing up in this historic place where musicians used to go to be made or broken. It was amazing to see, and kind of sad, because the music industry just doesn't work that way any more.


Anyway, I was very happy to finally see Nashville :)
That night we stayed at Hotel Preston, a unique hotel that Jameson found outside the city. The decor was really cool! It was a funky change from the normal chain hotels. We had a great stay here...look for this hotel if you're in the area!

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Before heading to Little Rock, we decided to stop overnight in Dallas and catch a baseball game with Tim (sax) and Rob (crew). It was the Mariners vs. the Rangers. Tim is from Seattle so of course he was backing the Mariners, and the rest of us were too if only to be contrary :P

This was my first-ever major league game! The stadium was huge and filled with all kinds of crazy foods.




Jameson and I had been to the gym earlier in the day and had eaten sparingly so that we could enjoy ourselves here. The first unhealthy and delicious thing we discovered: bacon on a stick!! Drizzled in a chipotle maple glaze. Oh my goodness.


Jameson also got a chicken-and-doughnut skewer with honey dip! How amazing is that!!!

(photo courtesy ESPN.com)

We found our seats and chowed down. The guys picked awesome seats a little to the left of home plate!


Unfortunately the Mariners did not have a great game that evening, though they made a solid effort. The Rangers' pitcher Yu was on fire. At some point around the 5th inning Tim came back from the concourse exclaiming that he'd seen former President G.W. Bush! And a few minutes later we saw him too, sitting in front row seats on the other side of home plate! I took a picture but had to zoom like crazy. Trust me, it was definitely "the W" and his wife Laura.


After the game we parted ways with promises to see each other again in Little Rock. Tim was staying in Dallas to catch another game, and Rob was driving through the night. Jameson and I walked back to the hotel and crashed. I had a great time!

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